It’s been there for you in times of need, when you yearned for stress relief, something to help get you to sleep, or just an excuse to indulge in a piece of cake. But like a pair of star-crossed lovers, you’ve found yourself torn away from your beloved gym.
For some, it’s been the hardest thing to deal with through the social distancing of recent weeks. But just because your local gym has closed – while we all endeavour to get through the coronavirus outbreak together – it doesn’t mean you can’t still squeeze in those killer workouts while you’re holed up at home.
Which is why we’ve called on the expertise of personal trainer and founder of fitness coaching app Prime Body, Tim Blakey, to provide you with a thorough home workout guide to make sure your workouts are as tip-top in your abode as they are in the gym.
He’s got you covered, from which equipment you’ll need, to sizing up your home workout space, before three killer home workouts and a vital pre-exercise warm-up, all with easy-to-follow videos from Blakey to make sure you’re keeping your form.
Why Should You Continue To Workout While At Home?
Some of you might be wondering whether you could just hold off any exercise until this all blows over and you can waltz back into the gym again. But not only will keeping up your regular workouts help stave off any boredom blues, they’ll also work to mitigate the fat-gain that can be common when we’re stuck at home.
“People often underestimate the amount of NEAT (Non Exercise Attributed Thermogenesis) that adds up in our daily calorie burn,” points out Blakey. “NEAT is basically the accumulated calories we burn during daily activities such as commuting, using stairs, fidgeting and everything else outside of dedicated exercise, and energy used for daily body functions such as digesting food.
“As NEAT will be reduced for most of us during these homebound days we need to stay somewhat active and also adjust our calorie intake accordingly.
Exercise is also great for brain power – a study from the University of British Columbia, found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
What Is The Best Way To Exercise At Home?
If you’re sold on the idea of keeping up your workout regime while you’re at home, you’re probably now thinking which mode of exercise is the best to go for?
“Much like a workout in the gym, it’s the one you can do consistently and stick to,” says Blakey.
“Full circuits can work well, especially to get a sweat up. However, because it is important to maintain muscle mass in this time of reduced exertion, I recommend smaller clusters of circuits or supersets.
“These enable you to get closer to fatigue with targeted muscle groups which in turn is an important stimulus in telling your body to maintain your muscle mass, and not allow it to waste. I also advise utilising unilateral exercises whereby you hold your body weight, or part of it with only one side of your body at a time. It’s a very easy way to challenge your muscles more.”
How To Build A Mini-Gym In Your Home
We’re going to assume that unless you’re Arnie levels of gym obsessive, you’re probably not going to have a full circuit workout space ready and waiting for you at your home. That’s why you trundle to the gym, right? But the good thing is that you don’t need much room for an effective home workout anyway.
“You should be able to do everything with as little as a 2m x 2m space on the floor,” notes Blakey, “and also make use of a couch or a chair too.”
In terms of equipment, don’t worry about getting a huge shipment of dumbbells in just yet. “You can get a good workout using nothing but your body weight and a few things in your home like a backpack and bottles of water,” explains Blakey.
The workout Blakey has put together maintains a relatively high number of reps for each movement, so if you were to add dumbbells, a single rep wouldn’t necessarily have to push you to your limit. As a good starter, aim for a pair around 4-6 kg each bell for a woman, and 8-10 kg for the men.
A thick exercise mat will also come in handy when doing any high impact floor-based or body-weight movements (you can use your yoga mat, but they are usually around two inches thinner and designed for lower impact exercises).
“Access to a suspension trainer like a TRX can also be useful and will open up a greater variety of exercises,” notes Blakey. “It takes up hardly any space to store and can be fixed to any sturdy wall.”
The Warm Up Before Your Home Workout
Now, just because you’re not going to be heaving any hefty weights around the gym floor doesn’t mean you can afford to not warm up.
Warm muscles will both contract more forcefully and relax quicker, reducing the risk of over-stretching a muscle and causing yourself an injury, and all while allowing your large joints to reach their maximum movement potential.
So, here’s Blakey’s quick and easy, three-part warm-up to get you started before the real action begins.
Sun Salutations and Hamstring Mobs
How Many Reps? Perform five reps of sun salutations, followed by five hamstring stretches.
Technique: Keep the chest touching or as close to the thigh throughout the hamstring stretching. It doesn’t matter if you can’t fully extend the knee.
Top Tip: What’s important is that you feel the stretch at the back of the leg before moving forward again.
How Many Reps? One, holding the pose for 45-60 seconds.
Technique: Keeping the heels on the ground, squat as low as you can until your thighs are relaxed. Your quads shouldn’t be working to hold you up. Keep the heels on the ground throughout also.
Top Tip: Use something to hold onto if necessary. Wiggle your knees wider from side to side using your elbows before holding the pose.
Cat and Cow Stretch
How Many Reps? 10 reps of both movements.
Technique: Keeping your shoulders over your hands, push the floor away as hard as you can, rounding the upper back towards the ceiling.
Try to ‘tuck your tailbone under’ and draw your abs in when you do. Hold this for one second. Then drop your spine the other way allowing your ribcage to drop down to the floor, shoulder blades sliding back together and arching the back as much as you can.
Top Tip: That push into the floor will help the stretch, so remember to push into it hard, feeling the shoulder blades wrap around the rib cage as you do.
3 Home Workouts To Keep You Fit And Strong
“The next three sections all contain three exercises each and are to be done for three sets each as a superset with around 30 seconds rest between the supersets,” says Blakey. “Well, that’s if you need it.”
Once you complete one section, then move onto the next. This is a full body home workout starting with the lower body before the upper body and then a killer ab workout to finish off.
If you need any extra guidance, then there is a video by Blakey under each section to help you keep your form throughout. Just don’t tell your trainer you’ve been cheating on them with another PT.
The Lower Body Home Workout
Repeat the following three exercises for three sets with a 30 second rest in between each.
Single Leg Glute Bridge
How Many Reps? Do 12 reps on each side.
Technique: Keep one heel pushing downwards on the edge of the couch and lie down below. Keep the tailbone ‘tucked under’ and your lower back flat as you lift. This will help prevent you using your lower back.
Dig the heel down, and lift the hips as high as you can so the thighs are high and inline with the torso. Slowly lower your self back down. Keep the non-working leg up and your knee close to your chest.
Top Tip: When you’re lying down below the couch, shuffle your butt close to it so your lifting knee is just less than 90 degrees at rest. This targets the glutes, otherwise you’ll feel it more in the back of the thighs.
How Many Reps? Just 10 reps on each side.
Technique: Bend one knee and aim to lower it slowly to a cushion set just behind you. Do this by leaning forward and putting your weight on the front leg. Keep the back leg bent high to make it more challenging.
Top Tip: If you have knee issues or find this difficult, have the back knee bent less so your foot makes contact sooner, therefore reducing the range.
How Many Reps? It’s a big one – 50 reps.
Technique: Jump lunge while alternating legs and keeping your body stable on a couch or step. Outstretch your legs as far as you can to maximise range.
Top Tip: Hold a higher surface if you are finding it difficult.
The Upper Body Home Workout
It’s three sets each once again for the following three exercises (don’t forget that 30 second rest if you need it). Come on now, nearly half way through.
Incline Push Up
How Many Reps? Do as many as possible, but make sure you keep good depth and strong technique.
Technique: Hold your spine and body dead straight with your arms under your shoulders and slowly lower your chest towards the step/bench/ couch.
Then push yourself back up. Keep your core braced with your belly button drawn in hard and the glutes tight throughout. Use a part of the couch at a suitable height to get at least five good reps done.
Top Tip: If you’re struggling then try the alternative to this exercise and perform the push up from the knees, as shown in the second half of the video.
Bent Over Raise
How Many Reps? Back to 12 reps for this exercise.
Technique: Grab a few bottles or bags of rice or whatever you have. Bend over at an angle of around 45-90 degrees. With the elbows tucked in at the sides and the hands up by the ears, keep the forearms and hands out of your peripheral vision, and straighten the arms along the same plane, shrugging the shoulders at the end before returning the elbows to the sides.
Top Tip: The lower you bend, the harder the exercise. Feel that burn.
How Many Reps? Skip for 60 seconds.
Technique: It might seem easy to some, but skipping is as a great conditioning exercise to finish off your lower body. If you are without a rope, then ghost skip i.e. pretend you have a rope.
Top Tip: If you’re a relative beginner to skipping then pick up a longer rope. The added length will slow things down and allows for less than perfect timing. To size your rope, stand in the middle of the cord and check that the bottom of the jump rope handles come up to your armpit.
The Abs Home Workout
The finish line is in sight. You know the drill by now – three exercises, three sets. Go.
How Many Reps? Do 20 seconds of each position for one minute total. Take on two minutes if you want a more advanced challenge. Flow through for three minutes each set if you’re a home workout pro.
Technique: Get into a plank position, back straight and flat, belly button drawn in and tailbone tucked under. Turn from a plank into a side plank without touching the ground unnecessarily. Then switch to the other side.
Top Tip: Use the alternate position (later in the video) from the knees if straight legs are too difficult.
Reverse Flog Leg Crunches
How Many Reps? Do 10 but use a slow four second count on the way down.
Technique: Holding a weight or support above the head, tuck the heels into the thighs with your feet close together but knees wide apart. While drawing in the belly button and abs as firmly as possible, Curl the knees up until they are above the elbows. Pause.
Very slowly lower to the start position by rolling each segment of the spine down the floor or bench. Ensure your lower back is still flat on the floor at the end of the movement. That is one rep.
Top Tip: Do not pivot with the knees to gain momentum.
High Plank To Alternate Toe Tap
How Many Reps? 20 reps to get you over the finish line.
Technique: Keep your belly button drawn in and tailbone tucked under in the high plank position. Lift the hips toward the ceiling maintaining a straight back and drive yourself back with one arm pushing into the floor.
With the other arm, reach to touch the opposite toes and then reverse.
Top Tip: If the stretch is too much on the back of your thighs, allow a small bend in the knees.